In July 1989, the leaders of the economic powers assembled at the G7 Paris summit decided to establish a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to counter money laundering as an effective strategy against drug trafficking by criminal ‘cartels’. However, since the inception of the international anti-money laundering (AML) regime there is a growing awareness that the regime is not working as well as intended.
"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations," said a federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank's $12.3bn profit for 2009. The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the "legal" banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations.
Wachovia made a habit of helping move money for Mexican drug smugglers. Wells Fargo & Co., which bought Wachovia in 2008, has admitted that its unit failed to monitor and report suspected money laundering by narcotics traffickers – including cash used to buy four planes that shipped a total of 22 tons of cocaine. The admission came in an agreement that Wachovia struck with federal prosecutors, and it sheds light on the largely undocumented role of U.S. banks in contributing to the violent drug trade that has convulsed Mexico. (See also: Wachovia's Drug Habit)